Building Learning Power

Building Learning Power is an approach to learning that we implement at St Vincent’s. This approach was created by Professor Guy Claxton. It is based on the idea that we are all capable of becoming better learners. Our ability as a learner is not fixed at birth or when we leave school; learning powers can be developed by everyone regardless of “ability”, background or age. In fact, there are NO limits to extending our learning power! We use ‘Building Learning Power’ ideas and strategies to:

  • Promote a learning culture that encourages children to become more effective learners, by developing ‘learning powers’ that will help them to take the next steps on their learning journeys.
  • Allow children to approach difficulties in learning without fear of failure.
  • Develop children’s confidence and self-esteem as successful learners.

There are four main ‘Learning Powers’. These are:

  • Resourcefulness
  • Resilience
  • Reflectiveness
  • Reciprocity (good relationships).

Throughout the year we celebrate and promote all the learning powers but have a specific focus on a different learning power each term. School Council launch the learning power with a special assembly to the rest of the school to remind them of the ways that learning power can help them learn. The assembly is also used to remind children that they need to use and strengthen their brains to help them learn more and do more. There is a special display in the school to remind children of all the learning powers and children receive special stickers in the relevant colour whenever they show they are using their learning powers well.

Resourcefulness: being ready, willing and able to use a range of learning strategies and ‘knowing what to do when you don’t know what to do.

Resourceful Learners:

  • Make links
  • Ask questions, of others and themselves
  • Make the most of the resources they have available to them
  • Use their imagination
  • Visualise scenarios
  • Reason logically
  • Think methodically

Resilience: the ability to cope with and rise to the inevitable challenges, problems and set-backs you meet in the course of your life, and come back stronger from them.

Resilient Learners:

  • Become absorbed in their work
  • Know how to reduce and manage distractions
  • Notice patterns and details from experiences and learn from them
  • Persevere and keep going in the face of difficulty
  • Channel any anger or frustration from problems or setbacks effectively
  • Understand that learning can be difficult and that success will require effort

Key idea: We can learn by not giving up even when we find things hard. We should keep trying!

Reflectiveness: thinking about or reflecting on what you do. It is closely linked to the concept of learning from experience, in that you think about what you did, and what happened, and decide from that what you would do differently next time. Reflective practice requires a conscious effort to think about events, and develop insights into them.

Reflective Learners:

  • think about what they want to get out of learning
  • plan the steps they might take
  • revise their plans as they go along and change and adapt them if they need to
  • think carefully about what they have done and ask themselves: ‘What went well?’ ‘What could have been improved?’ ‘What can I learn from this?’ ‘Where else can I use what I have learnt today?’
  • know their strengths and weaknesses as learners
  • are interested in finding out how to become a better learner

Key idea: We can learn by thinking carefully about our own experiences, in order to improve the way we learn.

Reciprocity: Being ready, willing and able to work well with others; developing and using good relationships to help your own learning.

Reciprocal Learners:

  • Know when to work alone and when to work with others.
  • Work well with others and understand the ‘ give and take’ of working in a pair or as part of a team (collaboration)
  • Listen carefully and respectfully to others to understand their ideas better
  • Can ‘put themselves in other people’s shoes’ and understand how they might feel (empathy)
  • Are ready to learn from others and help others to learn. They pick up others’ good habits and values

How to support children in developing their learning powers:

  • Encourage children to develop a ‘growth mindset’ by praising the effort that they have made to achieve goals, rather than talent e.g. ‘I like the resourceful way that you went to find a dictionary to help you to spell words- well done!’ rather than ‘Great spelling!’.
  • Change the idea of ‘I can’t do it’ to ‘I can’t do it yet.’
  • View mistakes as a learning opportunity.
  • Teach children how to visualise not just the achievement of a goal but the steps needed to get there.
  • Look out for real-life examples of people who have demonstrated the ‘four R’s’ (learning power superheroes)

To find out more about the ideas behind Building Learning Power, visit:

Building Learning Power

Parents can also find out more about Growth Mindset by reading this article:

Growth Mindset Article for Parents